Waratahs go down in Queenstown trial

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs have gone down to the Highlanders, 55-29, in their opening Super Rugby trial and will come home with an injury concern on Saturday.

Lock Ned Hanigan came off 20 minutes into his planned half-hour stint, after possible re-aggravating a knee injury he suffered on last year's Spring Tour.

This was Hanigan's first game back after injuring his medial ligament against England last year, though coach Daryl Gibson said the severity of this injury was unclear.

"We're not sure whether it's a re-aggravation and how serious that is," he said.

"(We'll be) checking that over the next couple of days but apart from that, just the usual sore bodies.

"Just in a tackle, (he) fell awkwardly. He's getting iced up and we'll assess him in the morning...but hopefully a short icing and he'll be back up and right."

Curtis Rona makes a tackle in Queenstown. Photo: Getty ImagesHanigan's fitness will be critical come the start of the Super Rugby season, in what is a very young Waratahs second row division in 2018, with the exception of Rob Simmons.

The 22-year-old's was the only injury from the game, though the Waratahs have plenty to work on after conceding 55 points in Queenstown.

Young winger Alex Newsome had an early double for the Waratahs, to lead 10-7 at the first break, before the Highlanders piled on the points in return.

The Kiwis added 26 unanswered points in the second third, with centre Rob Thompson notching a double in that half-hour.

It was more of an arm wrestle in the final third, with the Highlanders edging out the Waratahs 22-19 in the last 30 minutes.

Gibson said he was pleased with the book-ending stanzas, but the side made too many errors in the middle.

Highlanders' Josh Ioane lining up for a kick. Photo: Getty Images"At times we let the Highlanders play with too much space and freedom," he said.

"That’s still a real work on for the team against New Zealand teams, when they have a lot of space to work with.

"They scored some nice long range tries off a number of our errors."

One element Gibson was pleased with was his side's fitness, after a strength and conditioning overhaul in the offseason.

"(I was) particularly pleased with our fitness and efforts," he said.

"That was one thing that was lacking from last year's team.

"We really highlighted that we're short on football. (We're still) getting our systems in place, so a lot of practice will go into those over the next few weeks but certainly happy with where we're at from an effort, fitness point of view."

The Waratahs will play in the Brisbane Tens next week, before a clash with the Rebels at Brookvale Oval on Thursday February 15.

The Waratahs open their Super Rugby season on Saturday February 24 against the Stormers, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.

RESULT

Highlanders 55

Waratahs 29

Tries: Newsome 2, Simone, Meafu, Wileman

Cons: Mason 2

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